Virtual Reality: Risks and Safety

On November 12, 2018, the Oculus Blog posted, “You haven’t seen it until you see it with VR.” Even though the public became aware of virtual reality only recently, the concept has been around for decades. It took many years and attempts to reach to the perfection of Virtual Reality Oculus. Technology has evolved, and many inventors have tried to create something that helps viewers feel present at some event or scene.

Virtual Reality is a computer invention that tries to impersonate real world beyond the flat display to give a 3-D visual experience, which helps bringing depth to objects. This paper will discuss virtual reality’s brief history of our innovators’ attempts of the invention, up until reaching the Virtual Reality Oculus. It will also include the product’s specifications and capabilities, various ways that it could be vulnerable to cybercrime, if specific theories are useful in determining likely offenders and/or victims, some of the legal responses to its vulnerabilities, and if those responses are adequate.

One of the first attempts at virtual reality was in the 19th century with the 360-degree panoramic paintings. These landscapes were intended to make the viewers envision the battlefield. In 1935, Stanley G. Weinbaum, an American science fiction writer, created a short story called Pygmalion’s Spectacles. His production was known as “the first comprehensive and specific fictional model for Virtual Reality” (Chan, 2017).

The story was about a pair of goggles that lets the participant experience a fictional world while using touch, taste, and smell. Morton Heilig started developing many things that would help stimulate all the senses through his inventions. From the 1950s to 1960s, he created the Sensorama and, later on, the first VR head mounted display (HMD). The Sensorama had a stereoscopic display, stereo speakers, a moving chair, with fans and odor emitters. The headset displayed a stereoscopic 3-D with stereo sounds and a wide vision.

In 1965, Ivan Sutherland created the “Ultimate Display,” which fakes reality and an individual wouldn’t know the difference from fictional to reality. The product tricks the user by appearing in a world as real as the one the user lived in. Sutherland’s perception had a virtual world, which seemed real to the viewer. This led to the Sword of Damocles creation, by Ivan and his student, Bob Sproull. In 1968, they created the first VR/AR head mounted display, which was connected to a computer. Finally, in 1987, Jaron Lanier coined the term “virtual reality.” From there, the inventions progressed by transforming them into glasses in 1993 by SEGA.

In an American technology company, Virtual Reality Oculus was created by Palmer Luckey, with partners Brendan Iribe, Michael Antonov, and Nate Mitchell. This company specializes in virtual reality hardware and software products. “I won’t make a penny of profit off this project, the goal is to pay for the costs of parts, manufacturing, shipping, and credit card/Kickstarter fees with about $10 left over for a celebratory pizza and beer” (Palmer, 2012). Many believe that due to the product’s immersive environments and surreal experiences, VR is going to change the world. Before VR, our internet encounters have only been two-dimensional.

In 1984, Michael McGreevy, a computer scientist, started experimenting with virtual reality technology to find ways to advance human-computer interface (HCI) designs. A few years later, this led to an increase of exposure to the idea of virtual reality. Once Virtual Reality Oculus was created, Facebook decided to purchase it in 2014 for the sum of $2.3 Billion. Facebook decided to buy it because it believed that it was the next big thing and it wanted to invest in it, since it could also introduce millions to virtual reality.

Virtual Reality has become a new way of consuming media in 3D. it provides a uniquely compelling and captivating experience. The inventors of virtual reality wanted to create a world where consumers gain an experience where the quality of the environmental elements and models must be the best. The creators knew that it had to be as creative and accurate as possible for people to have interest in the product.

VR is mainly viewed for gaming and watching videos. However, it has transformed into a product that, not only gamers and techies use, but a product that customers could purchase for entertainment and media. Many individuals have been using VR for marketing and even education. Nowadays, this technology is applied to professional fields as well, such as engineering, design, medicine, training, etc.

The concept of virtual reality is creating a simulated, three-dimensional world by using computer technology. The user of this product can manipulate, discover and make it seem like they’re a part of that world. What constitutes a true virtual reality experience is including three-dimensional images, which seem to be life-sized from the user’s point of view, and the capability to track the person’s gestures, his/her head and eye movements to be exact, and consistently alter the images on the user’s display to reproduce the change in perspective.

Virtual reality is a storytelling tool, which sets out an environment that makes the user believe that he is a part of that setting for that specific moment, depending on what moves, smells, and feels. The sensory outputs will adjust while the user is exploring the environment. For example, since Virtual Reality includes 3-D sound, the user of the product will be convinced that the sound will change drastically as he explores through the atmosphere.

The product is very accurate to make the user believe that they are in fact in that specific setting, where nothing unrealistic could occur during that time. For example, when using virtual reality and the scenario that’s being shown is a hurricane, the user wouldn’t expect you to feel a calm wind or even distinguish the scent of roses. There’s a certain time during the experience where there’s a delay between the user’s movements and the products adjustment in that change, which is called latency. Virtual Reality uses sensors that detect how your body or head is moving. When the user moves his head or eyes, their point of view lags in order for the product to reflect that action.

For a user to feel truly involved in the scene there should be a sense of interaction, which include range, speed, and mapping. Virtual Reality is a believable, interactive, and computer-generated world which makes you feel that you are there both physically and mentally there.

For VR Oculus, the recommended specifications are an equivalent or greater Intel i5-4590, NVIDIA GTX 970 or AMD R9 290 or greater, 8GB RAM or more, HDMI 1.3 and 3x USB 3.0 plus 1x USB 2.0, and Windows 7 64 bit or greater. Some of the capabilities that’s included in the product are, as mentioned earlier, a platform for entertainment and media, for example, if a user has a fear of rollercoasters, they could use the product to experience the different aspects and senses of a rollercoaster. The user would experience different things as if they were physically on a one; the breeze through your hair, the motion of the rollercoaster, your heart racing, etc.

Some users would want to take gaming to the next level and using a VR headset instead. Some of the video games that could be played on the product including, racing and action-packed games, such as “Resident Evil,” “Firewall: Zero Hour,” “Gran Turismo Sport VR mode,” “Until Dawn: Rush of Blood,” etc.

The product provides the user a different experience than when playing games, either on the television or the computer. This way, gamers would feel more included in the game as if they were a part of the story going through their lives, rather than just being a player. VR Oculus is a platform for marketing, branded entertainment, and education. This product is even being used for the military and space program, and medical schools as well, which could include squad combat, vehicle simulations, surgical procedures, and so on. This product has the possibility to advance marketing efforts of brands everywhere.

Companies are using this tool to better advertise their products through storytelling. It could find a way to connect with every consumer and have them engage through experimental marketing. Companies everywhere are using this tool to better promote and provide unique experiences to achieve high levels of engagement in ways that standard marketing couldn’t. Virtual Reality Oculus has 3-D video and audio effect, which could be used by their integrated headphones. This introduces the user to new information to their virtual experience, enabling audiences to sense things happening in their surroundings in their virtual environment, completely independent of their eyes.

VR Oculus also includes rotational and positional tracking, which allows the device to estimate what position the user is in and for it to change accurately enough for the environment. This aspect of virtual reality is essential because it makes it possible to track every movement with six degrees of freedom (6DOF), which is the ways an object can move within a space.

Just like many other technologies could be hacked or used for criminal intent, virtual reality has its own privacy and security risks. Virtual reality environments can be used by offenders to facilitate real crime. Technology Attorney Steven Teppler stated, “As evolving virtual reality technologies are embraces by corporate environments, including healthcare entities, for training and other purposes, organizations need to carefully consider the privacy and security risks they pose” (McGee, 2016).

More importantly, some of these risks of breaches include a user’s personal information, such as name, birthday, email, etc. and even access the user’s payment information, such as card number, expiration date, etc. that are submitted while using the technology. that are submitted to the inventors of the product’s gear and software applications as part of its registration and payment processes. Dealing with that, could also risk exposing any information on product registration or payment processes.

Furthermore, another risk to virtual reality is the process of hacking the product’s recordings while it’s being used and other private information that could be shared along the way. A user never knows the kind of information that could be shared while using the product, for example, your geolocation could be exposed and used against you without your consent. Some cybercriminals could alter what a user sees through virtual reality.

An attacker could easily change what they see in VR, because the system has no protection to stop such attacks. The director of the University of New Haven’s Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group stated, ‘It was created with little security in mind, and they’re completely relying on the security of the operating system and the user,’ when the software was placed it was being used only to test the integrity of the system and didn’t focus on how an antivirus software could be used against the user.

Other reasons that could lead to breaches would be malware on the applications of the products and other exposures in the Cloud environments. In other scenarios, some vulnerabilities could include vetting vendors of the product. For example, when using the product for healthcare reasons, such as a helping guide on a medical procedure, a surgeon using VR tools to instruct a student or another surgeon on the actual operation, the information that’s shared during that educational moment could be shared, which could lead to a lot of problems.

Some cybercrime-specific theories could be useful in determining likely offenders, individuals who’d want to use the VR Oculus’ vulnerabilities to commit a crime and to determine their likely victims. Having said that, routine activities’ theory could fit perfectly since anyone who would commit a crime with virtual reality oculus would be a motivated offender who knows their way around the product, a suitable target who actually owns the product, and the absence of a capable guarding who can prevent the crime, which in this case, there wouldn’t be a guarding since it’s just the user and his/her fictional environment. Likely victims would be a part a higher class, most commonly male, but not necessarily, in their mid-20s to late 40s.

After having this crime committed, there are many responses that could be used to these types of cybercrime that virtual reality oculus is vulnerable to. Unfortunately, there aren’t many laws that could protect victims from such crimes. Even though technology is evolving, laws haven’t made that same progress. “Thus, virtual theft, virtual murder, and virtual rape are quite different than real world theft, murder, and rape, and will be treated as such” (HG, 2018). There aren’t any specific laws against crimes that occur with virtual reality, however, generally, there are laws that could be used against them. In 1986, Congress passed an anti-hacking federal law, 18 U.S. Code 1030, known as, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This law states that it’s a crime to intentionally access a protected computer without consent or proper authorization. This law battled various forms of “computer crime.” This law includes the following general conduct, including, accessing an unauthorized computer and obtaining private information, without authorization intentionally defrauding and accessing a protected computer and obtaining financial gain, anything more than $5,000.

To add on, coercion involving computers, knowingly causing the spread of codes, information, etc., and causing damage when doing so. If committing a crime under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the criminal’s sentence for imprisonment would be up to 10 years for violating and up to 20 for a second offense, which could be included in the same act. This law is the most primary federal law governing computer crimes and violations.

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Virtual Reality: Risks and Safety. (2021, Jun 22). Retrieved February 23, 2024 , from

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